Court Explains the Grounds for Vacating a Judgment in Massachusetts

While most negligence cases are ultimately resolved based upon the merits of the plaintiff’s claims, some cases are dismissed on procedural grounds. Even if a person’s claims are dismissed due to the failure to comply with the statutory rules, however, relief may be available via a motion to vacate in some circumstances, as discussed in a recent Massachusetts negligence case. If you were harmed by another party’s reckless acts, it is critical to retain an accomplished Massachusetts personal injury attorney who will fight to help you protect your rights.

Factual History

It is reported that the plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant condominium association following an accident in which she sustained injuries. The plaintiff’s claims were ultimately dismissed via a judgment from the court. The plaintiff then filed a motion to vacate the judgment, which the defendant opposed. The court granted the motion, however, and the defendant appealed.

Vacating a Judgment Dismissing a Claim

Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure (the Rules) allow a party to move to vacate a judgment if certain parameters are met. Specifically, a judgment may be vacated due to excusable neglect, mistake or inadvertence, or because of newly discovered evidence. It may also be overturned due to fraud or misrepresentation, or because it is void or has been discharged. Finally, the Rules allow for a court to vacate a judgment for any other reason that justifies relief from the judgment. An appellate court will not set aside a trial court ruling on a motion to vacate absent an abuse of discretion.

In the subject case, the defendant argued that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate any of the factors that would allow for relief via the Rules. The court was not persuaded by this argument, noting that relief may be granted for other reasons under the Rules that rise to the level of extraordinary circumstances. The appellate court explained that in assessing whether to vacate a judgment, a court could weigh whether the moving party’s claim or defense has merit and whether the rights of the parties will be substantially affected if the court grants the motion. While the Rule allowing for a judgment to be vacated should be applied sparingly, the purpose of the rule is to achieve justice.

In the subject case, the court found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that extraordinary circumstances were present that warranted relief from the judgment. Specifically, the plaintiff’s attorney was incarcerated in another country and had two significant and debilitating health events. As such, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Skillful Massachusetts Attorney

If you suffered injuries due to the negligence of another party, you may be able to recover compensation and should consult an attorney to discuss your potential claims. The skillful Massachusetts personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan are proficient at aiding people harmed in accidents caused by carelessness in the pursuit of recourse for their damages, and if you engage our services, we will advocate aggressively on your behalf. You can reach us via our online form or at 508-822-6600 to schedule a meeting.